The first word of the deaths in Jonestown to reach the U.S. early on the morning of November 19 came through the National Operations Intelligence Watch Officers Network (NOIWON), a CIA radio communications channel, which characterized the deaths as mass suicides.
The NOIWON notation was included in an overall chronology of events in the appendix of an After Action Report which was compiled by the Defense Department following the Air Force’s airlift of the bodies which included. Dated 3:29 AM, Sunday, November 19, 1978, the notation reads, “CIA NOIWON reports mass suicides at Jonestown.” The time on this bulletin is hours before any other hint of the deaths – much less the nature of the deaths – was whispered to the outside world.
Not only did the CIA first notify the Defense Department of the mass deaths, it may have known the poisons involved. A subsequent Defense Department cable notes that a medical evacuation team leaving Charleston Air Force Base “should include personnel to treat poison victims with necessary poison antidote.”
Survivors of the Jonestown tragedy had reached Port Kaituma and reported the news to American Embassy personnel who had accompanied Rep. Leo Ryan’s party. There is no definitive word on which of the people the survivors talked to was the source for the CIA’s information: it could have been U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Richard Dwyer, who was wounded at the Port Kaituma airstrip during the shooting that left Congressman Ryan dead, although longtime Temple researcher Jim Hougan reported that the information came from James Adkins, the CIA Chief of Station in Guyana.
NOIWON Notation, After Action Report, California Historical Society, Moore Family Papers, MS 3802, Box 19, Folder 118.